- The Washington Times - Friday, January 1, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

As Jews wrapped up their Hanukkah celebrations and Muslims celebrated their ongoing holiday of Muharram, I was reminded of the human element behind the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Many ordinary Israelis and Palestinians are no different than you and me. They want to celebrate life, peace and a world free of conflict.

Unfortunately, peace is far from reality in the region. What is the underlying problem in this excruciating conflict? Two peoples claiming their rights and history to a piece of land smaller than the state of New Jersey.

I have always believed the only peaceful and just resolution to this conflict lies in a two-state solution, with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security, within internationally recognized borders.

A two-state solution between Israel and Palestine has never been achieved as originally envisioned. Frustrations mount on both sides, and neither now feels it has a workable partner to uphold any agreement. Even American efforts to seriously engage the region prior to the Obama administration have been lackluster.

Fortunately, President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton keenly understand the urgency and nuance of this conflict, and I am encouraged that progress is being made under their leadership and the work of Special Envoy George Mitchell.

We have much work to do. America, as the world’s sole superpower, must continue to engage in diplomatic efforts to bring the region back from the brink of destruction and toward a fair, lasting peace. The Arab states in the region must play a significant role as well, in order for this to happen.

There is a tremendous need in the region for an outside mediator, and as allies of both Israel and surrounding Arab states, it is clear the United States must play an important and essential role in the peace process.

We can, and must, continue to be involved and encourage both sides to come to the negotiating table to achieve a two-state solution. It is within our power to create an attraction toward such an agreement. Resolving this conflict will be a difficult and lengthy process, but one for which the United States has a moral imperative to strive.

For Israel, the world must recognize the Jewish, democratic state’s legitimacy and right to exist, given the Jewish people’s three millennia of history in the land of Israel. This is unquestionable in my mind. Israel remains an important ally in the Middle East, and its safety, security and welfare are in our national security interest.

For Palestine, we must also acknowledge the right of Palestinians to their own state. Palestinians, especially innocent civilians in Gaza, have been living under harsh conditions, and their humanitarian plight is something that cannot be ignored.

Both the Israeli and Palestinian people deserve to live a life free of the threat of attack or psychological fear. It has always been my hope that our involvement in the region may be used to positively improve the lives of people affected by this conflict - people just like you and me, and I hope we can act quickly in pursuit of long overdue peace for both states.

Rep. Michael M. Honda is a California Democrat.

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